Ministers were urged to save nursery schools after a North East MP warned more than one in ten had closed since 2003.
The number of children needing a nursery education had remained roughly the same but dedicated nursery schools are being replaced by nursery classes in infant and primary schools, said Pat Glass, Labour MP for North West Durham.
Ms Glass, a member of the Commons Education Committee, told Ministers that dedicated nurseries were far more effective at helping pupils from poorer families, and tended to get better reviews from inspectors Oftsed.
Ms Glass told MPs that both the current government and the last one were responsible for “neglect of nursery schools in this country”.
There were 475 nursery schools in 2003, and there are now 414, she said. But the number of children attending them has remained level.
She added: “As local authorities have been hit by unprecedented cuts in funding since 2010, nursery schools are finding themselves at greater risk.
“There is no doubt that each nursery school place is relatively expensive when compared with a nursery class place, but the evidence is clear that that is because of the high proportion of graduate and teacher-trained staff.”
Inspectors Ofsted found that “nursery schools have provided the best educational outcomes of any model in the early-years sector for all children, particularly those who would be described as vulnerable or disadvantaged,” she said.
And the schools were also particularly successful in integrating children with special educational needs into mainstream education.
Ms Glass highlighted Oxclose Nursery School in Sunderland, which works closely with neighbouring schools.
She urged Government education minister Sam Gyimah, who attended the debate: “Will he please go a little further and visit the Oxclose cluster in Sunderland?
“If he wants to see truly amazing, inspirational and outstanding provision that will move him, he could go nowhere better.
“Oxclose Nursery School was truly inspirational then for all its pupils and is truly inspirational today.”
She highlighted the findings of the Commons education committee, which includes Gatsehead MP Ian Mearns, and warned last year that “the Department for Education needs to ensure the survival of maintained nursery schools”.